By Charlotte Smith
The holidays can be the most joyous time of year for many. However, some families receive broken hearts instead of happy moments. Loved ones who don’t care to be involved not only hurt relatives close to them, but they are missing out on happiness too.
We all have different family dynamics and some are more complicated than others. Relationships are hard to maintain at times. When their are personality conflicts, it makes it even harder to continue a well functioning relationship.
It can start small with little things seen as disrespect. Things can snowball into large issues. A mother-in-law’s criticism, a brother doesn’t call, dad forgot a birthday, a sister’s unsent invitation are all examples of small hurts that may lead to big damages. Families go from weeks to months and even years not speaking over issues they could easily address and move on from.
Disappointments and hurt feelings lead to broken relationships. Often times children are caught in the middle and damaged the most.
An angry divorced parent prohibits a child from seeing the other parent’s family. An overly controlling parent with a personality conflict with family members will not let children visit the family.
When hurt feelings arise in relationships some people disrespect members of the family in front of the children. All these things can be extremely damaging to children and the family bonds.
Managed Health Network Inc. gave the following 11 tips for repairing damaged family relationships.
1. Start with forgiveness. Forgiveness is the decision to let go of resentment and vengeful thinking. We all need to be forgiven at some point ourselves. Also, it doesn’t mean you deny the other person’s responsibility for hurting you, and doesn’t minimize or justify the wrong. Forgiveness can be powerful – leading to less stress and hostility, lower blood pressure and other benefits.
2. Look for the good in the person. When you are upset with someone, it’s hard to see that person in a positive light. But focusing on someone’s positive traits may soften your anger. Maybe your brother is a really good father to his son. Maybe your sister takes great care of your ailing mother.
3. Be the bigger person. In a stalemate, someone has to make the first move to mend the relationship. Do you value being right more than you value the relationship – and all the happy memories you could be creating? Plus, almost no situation is entirely one person’s fault. Which brings us to…
4. Try to see the other side of the story. What do they have happening in their life that may be contributing to their distant behavior or hurtful actions. Some people are wrapped up in their own lives so much they do not see the damages they may be causing in relationships. Life is hard for everyone at times.
5. Think of changes you can make. No one is perfect. Keep in mind that the other person probably has some points you need to consider. Did you hurt their feelings? Could they have seen your actions as disrespect? Do you have some things about your interactions with people you need to change?
6. Accept responsiblity, but don’t be a doormat. If someone is no longer speaking to you or flew off the handle, some interaction probably played a role in that. Look for what you could have handled better and accept responsibility for your actions. That being said, be careful not to take the blame for unrealistic expectations, someone else’s choices or situations that are out of your control.
7. Provide reassurance. When reaching out to your family member, reassure him or her that you love them and want to start fixing things and seeing their side. Explain that the feud is not as big as your love for them. If you need to apologize, do so.
8. Identify the real issue. The real source of conflict may not be what someone says it is. Instead of focusing on the presumed “problem,” look instead to what is being felt – the concerns, fears, expectations, needs, desires, hopes of the other person. Ask questions, verify or clarify all assumptions, get the other person’s side of the story and find out how your behavior has affected him.
9. Use your words. This is not just a concept we need to tell children. Using certain phrases, such as the ones below, can help defuse conflict: – “I see what you mean.” – “OK, you have a point.”– “I’m wondering if…” – “Tell me more about that.” – “What I hear you saying is…”
10. Give it time. If your family member rejects your request to talk, give them space and try to contact them again from time to time. Try not to expect anything in return for your efforts to reach out. Do what you have to do to feel true to yourself without being resentful of the effort you are putting in to mend the relationship.
11. Last, but maybe most importantly, don’t put children in the middle. If there is a child caught in the middle, continue to let the child know you care and are there for him/her. Don’t keep the children away from family members who truly have the child’s best interest in mind and will provide a healthy relationship to the child. Remember, don’t disrespect relatives in front of the children.
Sometimes, ongoing family contact can be unhealthy. Currently a buzz term known as “toxic relationship” is floating around. A toxic relationship is a relationship characterized by behaviors on the part of the toxic person who is emotionally and, not infrequently, physically damaging to loved ones, according to Health Scope Magazine.
Thomas L. Cory, Ph.D., explains in the article, “While a healthy relationship contributes to our self-esteem and emotional energy, a toxic relationship damages self-esteem and drains energy. A healthy relationship is a safe relationship, a relationship where we can be ourselves without fear, a place where we feel comfortable and secure. A toxic relationship is characterized by insecurity, self-centeredness, dominance, and control.“
Seek professional assistance if you are in a toxic relationship. However, keep in mind personality conflicts and disagreements do not fall into the category of “toxic relationship.” Cutting off family members not only damages one person, it affects the whole family.